Provost Inaugurates Student Research Conversations
This series is the latest started at York to showcase the scholarship of York’s world class faculty and distinguished administrators and to boost student engagement in research across the college.
Provost Griffith’s talk, “Punishment and Crime in the Caribbean,” was engaging and well attended, bringing a new topic to the fore at York, where there is a rather large Caribbean and South and Central American student population.
Sponsored by the Office of Undergraduate Research, the well-attended Conversation covered prison reform, drugs, murder, rape and vigilantism, and the importance of foolproof evidence to conviction and punishment. It even cited cases in which the police and even the government may be complicit.
Accordingly, the Provost also touched on “The Dudus Affair,” a development which badly tarnished the image of the island of Jamaica in the eyes of the world. Christopher “Dudus” Coke was being sought by authorities in the United States for drug trafficking to the US. Political interests were thought to be at stake should Coke be extradited for trial. What followed in Jamaica was a standoff between the suspect, his supporters, the police and the armed forces which led to the death of more than 70 citizens within two weeks.
Dr. Griffith also discussed the death penalty as part of the response to the high incidence of violent crimes in the Caribbean and in Latin American countries.
“The response by the public,” he says, “is lock ‘em up and lock ‘em up for longer periods. Hang ‘em and hang em high.”
He revealed that in Guyana, his own native country, the government has decided to keep hanging on the books, but to not exercise it if certain criteria of a given crime are not met. And he discussed prison reform and the conditions under which prisoners are held and for those charged with supervising them there.
Well-known and respected in the area of Caribbean security, crime, drug trafficking, and terrorism, Dr. Griffith is an in-demand speaker across the Caribbean and the United States. He testified in Congress in fall 2009 before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the security situation in the Caribbean and President Barack Obama’s plan to help deal with it.
Asked why there would be a new series in addition to the Provost Lecture Series and the Distinguished Scholars Series, Dr. Rishi Nath, director of Undergraduate Research, explained that this was a logical next step in the development of the undergraduate research program, and that the provost was the logical first speaker.
“The Research Conversations series was started to hold seminars by faculty experts on interdisciplinary topics that could be followed up by students for research projects,” said Dr. Nath. “Provost Griffith, as an active researcher and the person responsible for the vision of the undergraduate research program here, was an obvious choice. I believe it was his first academic lecture at York.”
Yet, the idea is not to have only faculty members leading Conversations. The series also is intended to have faculty and their research students lead joint presentations.